Finally, Kettlebells Come To Bootcamp

I have been trying to get this workout to Bootcamp forever but since we don’t have any KB at the gym I had to bring 2 of mine and one participant had her own so it was time! Why are kettlebells so good? Partly because of the extended leverage the bell gives, partly because they are handy and easy to transport but mostly because they are simply awesome.

Pavel Tsatsouline calls them the “Strength Secret Of The Soviet Supermen” and promises that with the simple kettlebell you can outperform almost any other gym full of equipment. My all time favourite quote from him goes like this:

“You are next. You are now in Soviet Territory and you are becoming a better man. If you don’t know how I will teach you. If you don’t want to, I’ll make you!”

Suffice to say, once I heard that it was game on and I devoured the Russian Kettlebell Challenge and was amazed at what an incredible workout you can get for such a simple lump of iron.

Last night it was the turn of my bootcamp participants. I have to admit, it’s not often that my heart rate goes over 170, but last night was one of those times!

Here is what we did:

5.11.2 Kettlebell Weights

Sumo deadlift
SDL High Pull
Chin ups or turnarounds

double Swing eyes
pass around
Sinlge legf deadlift
Single alt press
Chin ups or hand turns

dbl Swing overhead
clean and press 5ea
Dips on pbars or dip station
leg lifts

Dbl sumo high pull
single swing row
Laying chest press
Laying pullovers

Clean and Press
Clean and Press
Clap Pushup

Double swing
1 leg squat
Single swings
Sumo DL
Horse Stance Hold 30

10.12-14 The Two Extremes

I think due to my preference to take the day after bootcamp as a rest day I am going to have to take Wednesday and Friday as rest days. Unfortunately that means I will be working out Saturday – Tuesday without a break. It sounds brutal but unless I can get over my hangup about the day after Bootcamp that will have to do. After bootcamp weights on Thursday I took Friday off and changed RKC Friday into RKC Saturday instead. The only problem with that is my 45lb KB is at work, so if I don’t do RKC at work then I have to do it at home with my 55lb KB. In the spirit of pushing myself, this is what I did:

3×3 Clean and Press with 55lb
9 chinups
3×3 Clean and Press with 55lb
9 chinups
4×3 Clean and Press with 55lb
12 chinups
4×3 Clean and Press with 55lb
12 chinups
3×3 Clean and Press with 70lb
9 chinups

I have to admit I was shocked at how hard it was to use the 55lb being only 10lbs heavier. Then again I almost crushed my head and tore my arm off using the 70lb which I have never actually used with any regularity, I suppose that is the next part of my RKC goal setting, making sure that I can lift that bad boy with regularity and ease after all, it’s the standard by which Russian Men are judged.

Sunday rolled around and knowing that I was going to have a 4 day stint including a WOD day and a bootcamp day I was in the mood for a little flexibility work. I have started the summer training at gymnastics by introducing a stretching and flexibility schedule and it has highlighted my own shortcomings with glaring clarity. So with that in mind I set about my first Yoga workout in several months, a quick search indicates that it was January 2012 when I last participated in a Yoga class and it sure felt that way last night. I remember being comfortable with yoga, being able to do most of the stretching, even able to balance in many of the poses but last night showed serious flaws in my training. I am glad that I will be doing more flexibility with the girls, I think it will give us all a chance to improve what we have but regardless I think I need to add Yoga back into my schedule at least every other week.

Maybe I can make Sunday my yoga day! I have P90X yoga, Fountain of Youth Yoga from Tony Horton 1 on 1 and of course X2 Yoga to choose from.

I hate to admit it, but I kind of miss yoga…



R9D29 – Work Out At Work

Today our cafeteria at THE HOSPITAL decided they would offer potato chips (freshly fried) as the “vegetable” with their entree. Sometimes I just have to shake my head. It’s almost as bad as Planet Fitness offering their members pizza, bagels and tootsie rolls. At the far end of the spectrum I decided I would go to our small but adequate workout space and do my RKC workout for the day. It was short and tough but it kept me awake for the afternoon meetings!

10 minutes of standing spin bike, squats, pumps and halos with the 45lb.

3+3 clean and press with 20 swings
3+3+4 clean and press with 20 swings
3+3+4+5 clean and press with 20 swings
3+3+4 clean and press with 20 swings
3+3 clean and press with 20 swings

5×5 high pull rows

5×5 snatch

Add a short cool down and I was in and out in under 40 minutes. The only downside was that I had to opt for 2 bananas and some of my personal raw nuts and seeds mix for lunch. But hey, it’s better than potato chips!

R9D15 – Many Happy Russian Returns

I took the opportunity to work out during lunch today in our work “getaway” room. I had my 45lb KB with me and as I have said many times in the past, that’s all you need for a great workout. It went like this (since I didn’t have a pullup bar):

Pumps, halos and squats for warmup

1-2-3 Clean and Press
20 swings
1-2-3-4 Clean and Press
20 swings
1-2-3-4-5 Clean and Press
20 swings
1-2-3-4 Clean and Press
20 swings
1-2-3 Clean and Press
20 swings

5 snatches per side x 3

It was a quick 25 minutes or so.

It’s funny actually, the questions I get the most about my workouts are not about P90X or even now about P90X2 but rather about kettlebell workouts. People seem fascinated by the idea that you can get a full body kick-ass workout from a heavy metal ball with a handle. I guess I was pretty skeptical too at first but after you do your first few swings, you get the message! I know a lot of people use kettlebells for some of their work, maybe a few swings here and there witha sumo deadlift or two thrown in but I don’t know of many people who actually do full kettlebell workouts. If you haven’t tried it and you are looking for something to supplement your P90X/Insanity workouts then why not try the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) as outlined in the Art Of Strength workbook and work through the Enter The Kettlebell workout video. I can guarantee you will feel a massive difference in your strength, especially your core and back.

Give it a shot, it’s a new year after all!



R8D23/4 – The Upswing. Does This Blog Make My Butt Look 28% Better?

Interesting that it has taken a lawsuit filed by the FTC for people to wake up and realize that Reebok lied their asses off about their stupid Easy Tone butt lift shoes. The commercial was certainly enticing but did people seriously think this was little more than an elaborate hoax? I have been asked about these things by several people and probably my facepalm gave away my thoughts before I spoke. I just hope that this will lead to a massive crack down on these late night infomercials that claim all kinds of ridiculous health benefits from useless equipment, pills and even clothing! I am not sure if refined carbohydrates lead to a diminished degree of common sense but it certainly seems that way!

Tuesday I decided to do my kettlebell workout but instead of sticking with the RKC ladders I branched out and took some pieces of the AOS Providence DVD and mixed in some pullups. It was a bit of a mashup but went something like this:

30 seconds each:
2 handed swings
1 hand right
1 hand left
1 handed release switch
20 pullups mixed in

5 cleans right
5 cleans left
4 cleans right
4 cleans left
3 cleans right
3 cleans left
5 cleans right
5 cleans left
singles 30s
20 pullups mixed in

30 seconds each:
squat right hand hold
squat left hand hold
overhead squat left and right

Clean and press 54321 each side with pullups

Swing with flip into squat – 2 minutes

3 min non stop snatches 5 each side

Took a little over 20 minutes and was a good alternate to my usual KB workout.

Wednesday was boot camp day and I decided on an Insanity themed cardio night. It went over well, there was plenty to do, and most people didn’t manage to complete every move. The variety was about right, and the pace seemed to work well since we were able to get into the gym for the whole class. Here’s what went down:

Week 4 – “Anything for 30 seconds”

Warmup – Cardio Blast

3 sets:
3 sets:
log jump 3+1
lunge switch
power jacks


Chest and arms cardio
Pushup jacks
Simple burpee
ski abs
Step out pushup

Level 1 insanity
2 pushup, 4 run, 2 in and out
4 pushup 8 run 4 in and out
8 pushup 16 run 8 in and out

Basic Plyo
x2 60s
Frog jumps
hit the floor
suicide 3 step
horse stance 4 pulse 4 jump

Bonus Round

Basketball shoot both sides
baseball throw both sides
jab cross
jab cross hook uppercut

Cardio and Kettlebells. Don’t Suffer On The Treadmill.

Pavel Tsatsouline calls kettlebell workouts “cardio without the dishonour of aerobics”. I would extend that to the dishonour of running on a treadmill or even worse, the pathetic excuse for a machine that is the elliptical.

My favourite quote of his is still: “If you don’t have good judgement, why don’t you stay on the machines you big sissy?”

I had a short conversation last night about cardio and why it’s better to build muscle than waste away on a treadmill but predictably the response was tinged with doubt. I have written about the cardio issue before, as have so many others but I thought I would just do a little recap for the sake of assisting those who still hold on to archaic and scientifically disproven methodologies.

The Kettlebell piece is easy. Study some swings and lifts then get to work, it will blow your mind:

Continuous kettlebell swings can impart a metabolic challenge of sufficient intensity to increase Vo2max. Heart rate was substantially higher than Vo2 during kettlebell swings. Kettlebells provide a useful tool with which coaches may improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of their athletes.

Simply put, it’s as beneficial as traditional “cardio” but without the joint pain and insufferable boredom.

The Cardio takes a little more convincing for some:

What is aerobic exercise? Any steady state locomotion elevating the heart rate into the zone for twenty minutes or more.The zone is determined by formulas based on age and resting heart rate.

Now, ten reasons why it not only doesn’t work but is a poor use of exercise time:

  1. Oxidative Stress
    Which causes a breakdown of tissues. It also predisposes one to cancer and heart attack.
  2. Elevated cortisol production
    Which causes a breakdown of muscle tissue and increases fat storage or depot fat. People do aerobics to alleviate stress yet end up creating more stress.
  3. Lowered testosterone and HGH levels
    For men, aerobics are a form of chemical castration. Low T-levels are associated with lowered libido, depression, anxiety, increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue. This contributes to muscle-wasting and lowers the basal metabolic rate.
  4. Increased appetite and a tendency toward binge eating patterns
    Aerobic exercise makes people hungry!
  5. Excessive Muscular Fatigue
    Making it difficult to do other more productive forms of activity. Aerobics creates muscular weakness.
  6. Conversion of fast-twitch muscle fibers to slow-twitch
    The loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers contributes to aging and the loss of explosive power and speed. People become slower and slower.
  7. Burns a relatively small amount of calories vs. the time spent
    One large meal completely offsets the pitiful amount of calories burned in an hour aerobics session.
  8. Overuse injuries to the feet, ankles, and knees from excessive, continual force transmitted throughout the body
    This is exacerbated by over-engineered running shoes which cushion the feet in such a way to create a neural amnesia.
  9. Shortening i.e., deformation, of the muscle tissue from repetitive mid-range (partial range) movements
    This creates inflexibility, immobility, and muscle imbalances. Besides being tight, the bodies postural alignment becomes compromised. Aerobics create tight, inflexible bodies that are in chronic pain.
  10. Adrenal burnout
    A consequence of the “feel good” neurotransmitters which also stimulate the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is thefight or flight hormone. Excessive adrenaline creates an addictive response and people going routinely for the so called “high” of running end up with adrenal burnout, e.g., chronic fatigue and depression.


Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobic exercise (and the person who coined the term) completely recanted his assertions regarding aerobic exercise. After observing a disproportionate number of his aerobic-enthusiast friends die of cancer and heart disease, he reversed his ideas on the benefits of excessive aerobic exercise. He now claims anything in excess of 20 minutes has greatly diminishing returns. In fact, he’s now an advocate of scientific weight training.

Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple was once (as we all were) a cardio junkie and states the following:

The stress of high intensity training was also leaving me soaking in my own internal cortisol (stress hormone) bath. It wasn’t so clear to me at the time exactly what was happening “ in fact it was quite confusing, since I was doing so much of this so-called ‘healthy’ aerobic exercise but I had no choice but to give up racing, unable to train at anywhere near the intensity required to stay at an elite level.

The costs of chronic (repetitious) mid- and high-level aerobic work
– requires large amounts of dietary carbohydrates (SUGAR)
– decreases efficient fat metabolism
– increases stress hormone cortisol
– increases systemic inflammation
– increases oxidative damage (free radical production)
– boring!

Facts are that cardio training is more harmful than anyone ever imagined. The correct use of your time is in resistance training, more specifically high intensity resistance training mixed with off days of whatever you fancy. Literally, you should be out in the world challenging yourself to climb rocks, jump over tree stumps, climb in a kids playground to test your new found fitness.

Nobody should be subjected to running on a treadmill for hours at a time, you’re not a hamster in a wheel for heaven’s sake!


R8D18/19 – Doing The Basics Right And Bootcamp 3

Day 18 was an RKC workout. I was speaking with a coworker (and in fact some of my fitness class peeps) about the benefits of kettlebell work and it’s really weird. When you try to describe it, it doesn’t sound hard or even interesting but when you actually do the workout it is such a great whole body workout that it keeps you hooked. It’s a very basic motion, a very basic set of movements but as any great athlete knows, the best and most skilled athletes are the ones that have mastered the basics.

My kettlebell workouts now are exclusively with the 55lb bell and I got through the following:

34543 ladders of Clean and Press with pullups and 20 swings between each set
2x 3 rungs of snatches without pullups

I have to admit the snatches with the 55 were a bit daunting, and even though I was outside and able to just let go of the thing if it got out of control it was still pretty scary the first couple of times. I got through it though so I was pretty happy with myself. Next time will be 55555 ladders, that’s a long workout!

Wednesday was no name bootcamp day. We still haven’t really come up with a good name for it, and I have writers block…

The workout (now is the morning after) wasn’t that tough, even though it seemed difficult. I am not the least bit sore today which is a bit of a worry that we didn’t do enough to really work our legs. It’s odd, because it is mainly a leg workout so I thought I would be really feeling it this morning. That said, I find that lately I don’t get sore until right around 24 hours afterwards rather than the next morning so tonight I may be crying into my homemade sausages.

Yes, I made more sausages. This time with 60% pork, 40% beef and lots of spices including cumin and chili flakes with a little dijon mustard for juiciness. They are yummy, and I am so happy I can now eat guilt free sausages knowing exactly what’s in there!

Back to the workout:
Week 3
Short Tony Warmup and Stretch

Squat with knee lift cross touch x8
Squat with 4 hamstring curls x8
Point work front side back x8
hip flexor burners up ext hold pulse 8’s

In and out x25
full bicycle x20
full sit up x10
Laying pulse up to weak vsnap – 4 full 8 pulse x 4

x20 x2
step ups (arms on head)
step switch (arms on head)
box jumps ( arms on head)
Squat to box jump

Agility x2
two foot hops sideways over line length
over and tap length
hop full line each foot
over line with jump half turn x8

Run stance squats 16x each side
Single leg squat to hop x8 each side
Lunge walk arms up 8 per side
Frog jumps x8

The following we skipped due to lack of time… Maybe that’s why I am not so tired.

Squat hold arms out, reach touch knees with elbows
Squat hold arms out, reach touch opposite toe with hand
squat hold arms out, reach touch opposite knee with elbow
box floor to shelf 8x 2 each side

Level 1 Drills Expanded edition
Burpee x4
Burpee 4 pushup x4
Burpee 4 pushup 8 run x4
Burpee 4 pushup 8 run 4 squat thrust x4

R5D30 – Rite Of Passage Begins (I am a man, at least in Russia!)

Day 1 of the Clean and Press with pull ups (45lb KB) – Light Day

C&P left 1
C&P right 1
Pull Up 5
C&P left 2
C&P right 2
Pull Up 5
C&P left 3
C&P right 3
Pull Up 5
Rest 1-2 min repeat another 2x for a total of 3 ladders.

Snatches – The dice roll came up 5 – do 5 minutes of KB snatches.

10 right 25lb
10 left 25lb
10 right 25lb
10 left 25lb
10 right 25lb
10 left 25lb
10 right 45lb
10 left 45lb


I was astonished at how hard the snatches were. Maybe it was due to the fact I did 5 pull ups every time I had to do pull ups and that I had to run downstairs to the basement to do them. Whatever it was, I found that doing snatches with a 45lb KB is just about the most dangerous and (objectively) stupid thing anyone could ever want to do. However, in order to satisfy my own curiosity I also decided that I would take a shot at what Pavel says is the indicator of a Russian boy’s transformation into manhood, the clean and press of a 70lb KB with each arm. I was pretty confident that I could do it, I have always had beefy shoulders but the balance and coordination is not a piece of cake. Also, when you have the 70lb KB above your head you suddenly become aware that you are just a muscle spasm away from a crushed skull.

Today, although Tuesday, was Monday’s workout. Tuesday, a day off, will have to wait until next week and so tomorrow, Wednesday, will be “medium” day which at this point is the same as light day (Monday) but with swings not snatches. So I am in good shape to catch up and get back on track despite missing Monday.

Good news is that my shin splints and back ache from NYC are gone. I don’t think I could have made it another day with that volume of walking regardless of how much delicious BBQ I crammed into my pie hole.

R5D21 – New Bells, New Day, Clean Deck, More Snow

70lbkbOn the way back from Costco today we stopped in at FitnessSource to purchase some new Kettlebells. I needed a slightly lighter one to get my snatch ready, I needed a heavier one to progress to and I wanted to get Nicole one to get her started. We ended up getting a 15lb, a 25lb and a 70lb. The 15 is a cute blue, the 25 the same vinyl dipped black as the 45 I already have and the 70 is pure metal, no frills, just heavy as hell. Apparently 70lbs in the weight that the Russians use as the Rite Of Passage to becoming a man. Once you can snatch a 70lb KB, I guess you can graduate to drinking vodka and growing your own potatoes.

While Nicole went to the gym, I busied myself clearing almost 2 feet of snow off the upper deck. It was just out there, silently bothering me and since the sun was out and we were obviously done with the snow, I decided to clear it off. An hour later, I could BBQ if I wanted to! By the time Nicole got back she told me it was snowing and I should go out and shovel the driveway. WTH?? So as the evening closed in on my decision not to work out, I went out and shoveled the driveway which took about 15 minutes after which I thought since I was already warmed up I may as well do the RKC for the day. So using the 45 I did 3 sets of 40 swings followed by 5 cleans 5 clean and press and 5 snatches per arm. I did the snatches with the 25 since I am not really comfortable with how to get the thing back down once it is overhead. The 70 is still in the hallway where I dropped it once we got back home from the store, silently bothering me…

I want to encourage Nicole to get started with KB work. Her present routine has her doing some KB swings without any formal training or support and zero direction which I find reckless on behalf of her trainers. It’s just as bad as asking someone to go and do deadlifts or squats without training them on proper form first. I am happy it is in the regimen, just disappointed that it has been given no respect. So I will try to encourage her to do part of the RKC, starting with swings and moving up to the other complex moves. I am so taken with the RKC that I think it is the greatest training method I have discovered since I stumbled on P90X for the first time. I know I have knocked it in the past, but for what they are, P90X and Insanity are the greatest tools for anyone, athlete or not, to revitalize your workout, attitude and body! RKC is the same, it opens your eyes to the possibility that there are things out there that can really help to improve your physique and at my age, I am looking for every little bit of help I can get!

Speaking of help, I am inching towards 240 at a rate that is embarrassing. I need to do something about that.

R4 D72 – Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Even My Chin Up Bar Is Scared.

I took a peek at the first phase of the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) and decided it would be fun to give it a try since I am figuring out what to do when phase 4 ends and it’s a slow time around the house and work giving me lots of creative juices to put towards my plan. I discovered that the KB work is not just about the KB but it works in with what is called Active Rest which is another name for Keep Working Comrade! The day looks like this (taken from the RKC Kettlebell Workbook):

RKC Monday Phase 1As you can probably see, the KB swings are alternated with something else, and as noted, you can swap that out for anything you want as long as you do the 12 minutes of work. I opted to do Jumping Jacks, Pull Ups, Dips, push ups and knees up running at which point the time ran out. That is a good thing because my next three sets were vomiting, passing out and coma.

This workout, 22 minutes total, completely destroyed me but I felt utterly amazed and proud of myself once I was finished.

In case you are curious, the exercises for the warmup are as follows:

Halo, Pump, Mountain Climber.
Wall Squat.

For the record, I managed to do 5 sets, that is 5 swings followed by 5 active rests. I felt like my heart was going to explode but I didn’t feel any tweaking in my back and even today, the next day, my back is not sore. I guess my posture must have been good. I do have some tightness in my ITB and hips however which I can only assume is normal given the flexibility and strength that is required through the hips girdle for these exercises.

So am I a convert, we will have to see. All I know is that P90X workouts are fading fast as is Shaun T and much like an ex girlfriend, I don’t hate them, in fact I am grateful to them for getting me to where I am and for helping me become who I am.